The Lazy Cook's Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback potatoes have been making their rounds on the foodie blogs and recipe websites. They originate from a restaurant that opened in 1748 in Hasselbacken, Sweden.  In the 1940's this restaurant introduced a crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside potato to their menu.

Usually a whole baking potato is laid on its side and then thinly sliced leaving about a quarter of an inch at the base unsliced. This holds the whole potato together. Then a buttery herbed mixture is slathered all over it and in between all the slices.

We swoon over the crispy edges and tender centres but the downside for me is that I can't eat a whole potato. And I don't like making those thin slices and fear for slipping and cutting right through.

This lazy cooks method is so easy. My potatoes are from the cold room and need to be peeled. Otherwise I would skip that step and go straight to slicing. A mandoline makes slicing failproof. Slice up the potatoes and slather in herby oil. You are good to go.

Lazy Cook's Hasselback Potatoes

3-4 medium sized potatoes
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/4 c. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, roasted and pureed
1 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375F.

Mix melted butter, olive oil and seasonings in a medium sized bowl.

Wash and peel potatoes. New potatoes or ones with relatively fresh skins do not need to be peeled. Slice thinly, about 2 mm thick. A mandoline is the easiest way to accomplish this.

Immediately place in the bowl of herbed oil and toss to coat.

Coat a muffin pan with non-stick spray. Carefully make a pile of potato slices to fill each muffin spot. You can also use parchment paper muffin papers to line the pan for easy cleaning and serving.

Sprinkle with more thyme and black pepper, if desired. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until edges of potatoes are very crispy. Serve immediately.


Flavour 101

 I am often asked how to use spice and herbs. How can I make my meat and potatoes dinner more flavourful. What is umami?

Five years ago I arrived in Swift Current already a full fledged foodie. But little did I realize that my journey had only just begun. In the ensuing years I have done nothing but make good food. And I am still learning so much every day.

This cooking class is all about adding flavour to food. Spices and herbs are only one ingredient. The fat you choose, the stock you select, the vegetables and perhaps meats all work together to create a party in your mouth.

Join me for an evening of exploring all these components to a wonderful dish. It is a lecture style class with food tasting.

Only $25 per person. March 8.  6:30pm.  Location to be announced.
All classes to be booked at least 9 days in advance and paid in full. I reserve the right to cancel if enrollment does not cover the cost to present the class.


Simple Slow Cooker Chicken Tagine

I mistakenly purchased boneless, skinless chicken thighs yesterday. I planned a sheet pan dinner but these would dry out in the oven. Rather than pop them in the freezer I prepared a slow cooker tagine. (A tagine is a Moroccan or Tunisian style stew. The spices are its signature.)

I prepped all of it last evening, added the chicken this morning, turned the slow cooker on for an eight hour braise and walked out the door.

It is a treat for me to come home to the aroma of supper on the table. After a busy day of substitute teaching at a Hutterite Colony 30 minutes out of town and then a quick stop to pick up a shipment of foraged foods at the bus depot I opened my front door. A smile broke out on my face as I inhaled the aroma of mellowed spices and remembered the meal waiting for me.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tagine with Chickpeas

Feel free to adjust the amount of spices. There are so many variables, for example the freshness of your spices will dictate how much to use. My spices are relatively fresh and strong. If you don't like cayenne, leave it out. But don't be too cautious. These spices really make the meal.

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 medium sized yellow onion. coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. flour
drizzle of olive oil
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 c. chicken stock
2 c. cooked or canned chickpeas
3 medium carrots, cut into larger chunks
1 c. canned tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1/2 preserved lemon, rinsed and coarsely chopped
sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil. Add spices and heat until aromatic. Add flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in chicken stock. Cook for a couple of minutes until slightly thickened.

Add tomatoes, chickpeas, apricots, carrots and lemon.

Transfer to slow cooker. Cover until ready to cook. Add chicken thighs, cut in larger pieces, and stir to coat with the sauce. Turn on to an 8 hour slow cook. Serve with steamed couscous.

You can find my recipe for preserved lemons here.


Simple Parmesan Rind Stock

For the past couple of days I have been cleaning my kitchen. Emptying all shelves and drawers, washing them and replacing all my dishes, cooking pots, spices and flavourings. Today I finished. Cleaning my refrigerator was the finale.

For months I have been collecting cheese rinds. I sometimes add one to a chicken stock that I am making. Today I tossed about a dozen of them into a stock pot with frozen bits of fennel, carrots, onion and vegetables I have also been setting aside for a stock making session. I added about a gallon of cold water, bay leaves and turned on the high heat to bring all to a boil. When it was merrily bubbling away I reduced the heat to maintain a light boil. I left that on the stove top for about 45 minutes.

After cooling for awhile and straining in my colander this is the rich stock I collected. Now packaged and labelled and returned to the freezer I have the beginnings of some wonderful soups, stews and sauces. Easy as that.

Then I immediately concocted this version of avgolemono Greek soup. But without the lemons. I had none. Thanks, Ren, for the comment. You are absolutely right. This is more like an Italian straciatella than avglolemono.

Quick and Easy Egg Drop Soup with Spinach and Orzo

2 c. parmesan rind stock
1/4 c. orzo pasta
1/4 c. finely chopped spinach
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp. camelina oil
sea salt and piment d'esplet to taste

Boil the stock with the orzo until it is tender. Add spinach to wilt. Lightly beat the egg with the oil in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle into the simmering soup and stir until cooked, about one minute. Serve immediately. Garnish with piment d'esplet.


Pasta alla Norcina

It isn't often that I find a recipe using only ground pork. Usually it is mixed with beef and/or veal. Perhaps that and the simplicity of this recipe attracted me. Orchiette, fondly called little ears, pasta is suggested but I had none. Penne worked fine.

Rather than transcribe the recipe, just go to the source. Click here and you can find it on Cooks Illustrated in resplendent detail.


Stock Tips for the Turkey Carcass

Rather than stow the carcass away in the freezer just put it back into the oven and make the turkey stock right now. There is no time like the present to convert the Christmas turkey carcass into a tasty golden stock for making soups, sauces and stews. There are a myriad of ways to make stock but simply put, a long simmer produces more flavour and a clearer stock. Fat makes it cloudy. 
Start the roasted bones in cold water. As fat rises to the surface skim it off every ten minutes for the first half hour and then every half hour for the next two hours.  Chill the completed stock and scrape off the fat that sets on the surface.
An easy way to get a crystal clear stock is to freeze it first. Then defrost it in a sieve over a bowl in the refrigerator. As it melts a gelatinous blob is formed that strains all impurities. Discard the blob.
Long simmer on the stovetop, in the oven or in a crockpot. A quick stock can be made in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes after full pressure is reached. Allow it to cool naturally.
Stock will keep in the refrigerator up to 6 days or in the freezer up to 6 months. Freeze in resealable plastic bags by laying them flat until frozen and then they can be conveniently stacked in the freezer to save space.
The only safe method to preserve stock by canning is to use a pressure canner. At sea level pints are processed at 10 pounds (5 kg) pressure for 75 minutes and quarts at 10 pounds (5 kg) pressure for 90 minutes. At altitudes over 1,000 feet (305 m) use 15 pounds (7.5 kg) pressure. Stocks preserved by pressure canning have the benefit of a longer simmer time and become very rich and flavourful. After properly cooling and checking that lids have sealed they can keep on the shelf for a year. (Source: National Presto Industries Inc.)

Roasted Turkey Stock
Pull off all the meat and reserve. Place the bones in a roasting pan along with aromatic vegetables. Roasting imparts a more intense and complex flavour. Feeling adventurous? Add a cinnamon stick. This is a tip from a Mennonite friend.
 leftover turkey carcass, including neck, wing and leg bones
4 onions, quartered
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 large celery ribs, cut into chunks
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns 5 mL
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 whole star anise
6 oz. can of tomato paste 200 mL
Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C). Tear turkey carcass into large pieces and arrange in a single layer in a roasting pan. Fit vegetables around the carcass. If they won’t fit around the carcass then roast the vegetables in the same pan after the bones are done. Roast until brown and sizzling, 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove from oven and transfer everything to a stockpot. Be sure to deglaze the roasting pan with a little water and scrape up all the flavourful brown bits. Add to stockpot.
Add thyme, bay leaves, black peppercorns, star anise and tomato paste to stockpot.
Fill with cold water to cover and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer. Simmer for a minimum of 5 hours but better if simmered for 12-24 hours. Skim the fat off the top regularly to prevent clouding of the stock.
Cool and strain through a sieve. Discard all the solid parts. Refrigerate and use within 6 days or freeze up to 6 months. 

Turkey Demi-Glace
Velvety textured demi-glace is typically made from veal bones because they contain the most gelatin. The roasted turkey stock is reduced until it is very thick and then gels with cooling.  With a demi-glace an intense flavour is imparted without excess liquid. If you do not like the flavour of celery it can be omitted when making the stock.
Continue to simmer prepared turkey stock for another 3 or 4 hours. Skim the fat from time to time. The stock will be reduced to a syrupy thickness. Keeps in the refrigerator for 6 days or frozen 6 months.

Second Day Brodo 
Brodo is Italian for broth. This is a long simmered bone broth detoxifying cleanse.  Bone broths are a popular trend and touted to be very healthful. Although there is no definitive research to prove they are a super food they are hydrating, contain collagen that is a protein that may help with bone, joint and skin health and contain vegetable and herb anti-inflammatories. The lighter meal after a period of over indulgence brings your digestion back into balance.
carcass and extra meat from the turkey
8 c. water 2 L
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar 30 mL
1 c. onion, diced 250 mL
1/2 c. carrot, rough chopped into 1/2-inch lengths 125 mL/ 1.2 cm
1/2 c. celery, rough chopped into 1/2-inch lengths 125 mL/ 1.2 cm
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. salt 15 mL
1/2 c. whole garlic cloves 125 mL
1 tbsp. olive oil 15 mL
fresh ginger
coconut oil
Break the turkey carcass into small pieces and place in a large stockpot with cold water and vinegar. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. During the boiling, a frothy layer will rise to the top. Skim regularly to remove.
Simmer 6 hours over gentle heat. If the level of the water drops below the bones during simmering, add water to bring the level back up.
After 6 hours, add the remaining ingredients and simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
Strain through a fine strainer discarding all solids. Return the liquid to the stove. Bring to a moderate boil and cook until the volume has been reduced to 4 cups (1 L). This step will intensify the flavors of the broth.
Then heat oven to 325 F (160 C). Toss garlic in oil and salt and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast in oven for 20 minutes until the garlic cloves are lightly browned and softened.
Finish the dish by cutting the peeled, fresh ginger into matchsticks. Use about 12 per serving. Add about 1 teaspoon (5 mL) coconut oil and three cloves of roasted garlic per serving.
Place the ginger, coconut oil and garlic in the bottom of a soup bowl and pour in 6 ounces (200 mL) of the hot brodo. Let the ginger and garlic steep for 2 minutes and serve. (Source: Chef Zeb Stevenson)